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Legacy Fund impacts Wadena County nearly $40k for arts

Mark Turner, executive director of The Five Wings Arts Council, announced recently that the Legacy Amendment has been a vital source for funding which has generated income for local businesses and individuals in the area. Wadena County art projects have been awarded a total of $39,464 in the past year.

This amount was generated from the Legacy Fund as well as other public and private dollars and administered by the Five Wings Arts Council. The direct economic impact totals $100,000 for Wadena County alone when considering the dollars leveraged by the projects based grants.

The Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment was passed in 2008 by the voters of Minnesota. It created four dedicated funds for land, water, parks and arts. The Legacy Amendment has been a vital source for funding which has generated income for local businesses and individuals in the area.

From the arts fund, the legislature appropriated $21.6 million of the new legacy dollars to the Minnesota State Arts Board and Regional Arts Councils.

According to Sheila Smith of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts: "Minnesota's state arts funding system includes a state agency [the MSAB] that does statewide programming and grant-making, and 11 regional arts councils which each serve a set of counties with local grants and services. They are the state's infrastructure for supporting the arts in Minnesota. Together, they are required to make grants in 1. arts, and arts access, 2. arts education, 3. arts and cultural heritage."

The Five Wings Arts Council is one of the eleven regional arts councils and serves Cass, Crow Wing, Morrison, Todd and Wadena Counties. This five county region received Legacy Funds of $309,640 to support non-profit organizations, schools, communities and individuals.

According to Turner, "This money, along with other public and private dollars, leveraged a direct local economic impact of nearly $1 million in this first year of funding."

This amount is a sum of the project expenditures which brought music, theatre and literary performances, art exhibits, other cultural events, as well as training opportunities for artists, community volunteers, boards and staffs, in all parts of the area.

The Menahga Arts Guild is an example of a newly formed group that was assisted in its organizational efforts by Legacy Funds. One of the guild's first projects was to offer an art camp for ages 8-12 and follow-up visual arts outreach activities in the community.

"With a Five Wings Arts Council Grant we can pay a stipend to local artists involved, include a folk artist, as well as better fund a Youth Art Ambassador activity table on July 10," said Project Director Tiffany Besonen in her grant proposal.

Legacy Funds also allow on-going support to organizations with a long history. The Wadena area Madhatters Community Theatre, Inc. originated in 1954 and in that time has staged 64 productions.

"Madhatters reaches out to area youth through our productions, summer drama camps and scholarships. We also reach out to group homes, nursing homes, and assisted living residents by invitation to dress rehearsal performances free of charge. Wadena and surrounding communities continue to support Madhatters and recognize the importance of community theatre and the arts," said the group's vice president, Don Hoffmann.

The cost of bringing a musical production to the stage can easily reach $15,000 to $20,000. Money spent on materials for set construction and costumes, advertising, salaries for directors, musicians, choreographers, custodians, and technical staff is all re-circulated within the community. Royalties, music and scripts are expenditures outside the community. Those who attend the performances experience a cultural offering, see their friends and neighbors on stage, and the price of their tickets help support the local economy by going to local restaurants and buying gas in town.

Legacy grants to organizations such as the Madhatters, Wadena Area Concert Band, Whiskey Creek Film Festival and the Menahga Arts Guild in the last year have not only enhanced the greater community's cultural atmosphere but also served as a miniature economic stimulus packages.

Twenty projects in Wadena County were supported by Five Wings Arts Council grants in the last year. This totaled nearly $40,000 in direct grants and leveraged $104,357 in actual direct economic impact.

For a complete list of Five Wings Arts Council grants awarded in the last fiscal year and to see how the Water, Land and Legacy Fund is benefitting you, visit Visit the grant page for information on applying for the Sept. 15 grant round.